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Talkin' Sleep

How Much Sleep Does My Toddler Actually Need? 

Let’s face it, as a parent you’ve probably fallen victim to the belief that your toddler’s bedtime should be at 7 PM for optimal sleep quality; all because of false, the worst, and unrealistic information from the internet. I’ve been there too- thinking my little one’s bedtime was either too late, or that they weren’t getting enough sleep. When it comes to toddler sleep, the journey can be both confusing and challenging, especially when bombarded with information online because the information and your toddler’s actual sleep…well…are wildly different. You’ve probably found yourself questioning your toddler’s sleep patterns and wondering if you’re doing anything wrong or whether something is wrong with your toddler.

What if I told you that your toddler doesn’t need as much sleep as you might think or as much as the internet suggests? I’m here to debunk these unrealistic expectations and tell you how much sleep your toddler actually needs (Access our FREE normal Toddler Sleep Guide HERE). 

Debunking Unrealistic Expectations 

One important question to start with is does your toddler’s sleep “suck” or have you been fed with the wrong information, causing you to have unrealistic expectations? Before worrying that there is something wrong with what you are doing or with your toddler, let’s consider whether your expectations align with their actual needs.

There is a widespread belief that toddlers should be asleep by 7 PM or 7:30 PM and have a 12 hour long night, for optimal sleep quality. Spoiler alert: that’s not the actual case. First, just like you, an adult who has unique sleep needs, your toddler does too. Each toddler has different needs from one another. Sleeping at 7 PM could be the perfect time for some, but horrible for others. Second, if your toddler is napping, their overnight sleep needs would be different than a toddler who is no longer napping. 

The Nap Factor

One issue that lies within the belief that your toddler should be asleep by 7 PM, is forgetting that your toddler takes daytime naps, and these daytime naps contribute to their overall sleep needs. If your little one is catching some sleep during the day (most toddlers do, and need to, until they drop their nap between two and a half and five years old), a 7 PM bedtime might simply be too early of a bedtime to have a decent wake time in the morning.

According to The National Sleep Foundation- emphasizing on the sleep needs of one to five-year-olds- a total amount of sleep of 11 to 14 hours for one to two-year-olds, and 10 to 13 hours for two to five-year-olds, is the normal, optimal sleep duration. Here is the twist, this sleep duration includes your toddler’s naptime. If your toddler needs a total of 11 hours of sleep, and is taking a two-hour nap, then a 7 PM bedtime is too early for them to sleep through until the morning, unless you’d like them to wake for the day at 4 AM. For the full guide on normal toddler sleep needs go here.

Let’s break it down with another example. If your toddler needs 12 hours of sleep in a 24- hour period, and naps for two hours, that leaves 10 hours for sleep throughout the night. A bedtime of 7 PM could result in a 5 AM wake-up call, leaving you reaching for that morning coffee a bit too early. 

Don’t Run to Drop That Nap Yet

Are you thinking of dropping or limiting your toddler’s naps so that they can sleep early? Pause on that idea. As tempting as it may sound, it also comes with consequences. Daytime naps are very much needed amongst toddlers; they need them to function well throughout the day without turning into little monsters by evening. Your toddler’s developing brain needs the midday recharge, and dropping the nap might lead to an overtired toddler by evening. As much as an earlier bedtime may seem like the ideal solution for some, the reality might be a chaotic meltdown after 5 PM each evening.

So, the question that arises after all the time and consideration: would you rather have a later bedtime with a happy, well-rested toddler or an earlier bedtime that results in two hours of chaos every night after 5 PM? The choice is all yours! Still, its essential to consider your own personal family life AND toddler’s needs together. 

Ideal Bedtime for you 

It’s essential to choose a bedtime that is best tailored to your toddler’s sleep needs AND your family’s lifestyle. What could work for one toddler, doesn’t necessarily mean that it MUST work for another toddler. Rushing through the evening to meet a certain bedtime can cause stress and lost evening connection – an essential ingredient for solid overnight sleep. Let’s break free from unrealistic expectations and focus on creating a bedtime that works best for your family dynamic. 

Join the Conversation

We want to hear from you! Share your experiences in the comments below; when is your child’s bedtime? Does it seem to be working for them? Are they napping? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with us! Let’s keep the conversation flowing.

If you want to learn more about how much sleep they need, how many naps they need at a certain age, and realistic overnight sleep stretches, you can access our FREE normal Toddler Sleep Guide HERE

Are you following us on socials yet? We’ll be discussing this topic over there too. Make sure to follow @talkin.sleep

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